Dirt 5 is the kind of game where your award after a race is paid in Dirt Dollars. Not US dollars, not Euros, not krugerrands, not bearer bonds, but Dirt Dollars. It’s the sort of game where you unlock stickers you can buy with your Dirt Dollars and then stick them on your car. Do you like stickers? Dirt 5 thinks you like stickers.
It’s the kind of game where voice actors adopt a forced casual mien to pretend to do a podcast that you have to listen to between races. Yes, a podcast. Idle chatter and bad jokes. They’re worse than DJ Atomica, and there are multiple of them. I’m trying to pick a race or buy a car and they won’t shut up with their podcast chatter. It’s worse than bad music, which I already turned off.
Dirt 5 is the kind of game where one of the events is called Ultra Cross. It’s the kind of game where one-on-one races are called “throwdowns”. If you win a “throwdown”, you unlock special stickers presumably because you “threw” the other driver “down”. But Dirt 5 is still the kind of game where you have to spend your Dirt Dollars to buy the sticker you unlocked. Dirt 5 is the kind of game that has a race in Manhattan. It’s the kind of game that has you driving atop the Great Wall of China, because who hasn’t seen the Great Wall of China — even if it’s just in a picture or a videogame — and thought, “I want to drive along the top of that thing!” That’s how well Dirt 5 thinks it knows you. You like stickers and you want to drive along the top of the Great Wall of China.
Dirt 5 is the kind of game where the driving is so frictionless that I have to keep checking that I turned off all the driving assists, because it sure doesn’t feel like it. It’s the kind of game where I’m driving with manual transmission because otherwise I don’t have anything to do. It’s the kind of game where I need to shift gears not because it helps my driving, but because it helps me feel like I’m contributing somehow. Let me do it, I tell Dirt 5 when I toggle the transmission setting from automatic to manual. I then double check that all the driving assists are still off. Yep, they’re still off. And not just “low”, but “off”. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability management, and auto brake are all off. Even tricksteer is off. I don’t know what tricksteer is, but I’ve verified that it’s off. Dirt 5 is the kind of game that still feels like I’m driving a slot racer when I’ve turned all the assists off.
Dirt 5 is the kind of game where you fill your nitrous by doing stunts, except there are no stunts and there is no nitrous. But it is the kind of game where you get weapon power-ups on the track, but you never know which weapon power-up you’re going to get. It’s the kind of game where you don’t know if I’m joking about there being weapon power-ups. Am I? You can’t tell. Because that’s the kind of game Dirt 5 is. One in which the racing is so superficial that it needs weapons to take up the slack. You still can’t tell if I’m serious. That’s what Dirt 5 is like. To its credit, there is no blue shell in Dirt 5 and I’m not joking when I tell you that.
Dirt 5 is the kind of game where you don’t have to worry about how much damage you do to your car, because there is no damage. Your car is as immutable as a car in Ridge Racer. This is a universe where damage doesn’t exist. Therefore Dirt 5 is the kind of game where there’s no need for brakes if you can instead bang your car off a wall or, better yet, another car. Nothing will get damaged and you probably won’t even slow down. Look, ma, no brakes and no breaks!
But Dirt 5 is also the kind of game where I hit a dude’s car and a fender or a trunk or something goes flying off. I’m all, like, dude, I’m really sorry, when I hit your car, I didn’t know that could happen. And he didn’t care because it didn’t make any difference. I still felt bad because the back of his car was missing a fender or the trunk or something. But I never saw it again because the AI politely falls back while you’re in first place so you never have to look at the unsightly backs of other cars getting in the way of the pretty graphics.
It’s the kind of game where they shoot off fireworks at the finish line. Also confetti to really drive the point home. Dirt 5 is the kind of game where you’re going to come in first place way more than you expect because it wants to encourage you with more than just fireworks and confetti. Dirt 5 puts your car on a podium even when you come in last place. Here, have some Dirt Dollars.
It’s the kind of game where you’re not going to have to do a lonely rally race on an empty road, because then you’d never achieve the “trading paint” objective for bonus Reputation points. It’s the kind of game where you earn Reputation points. For each sponsor! So many Reputation point buckets to fill. Do you like grinding for reputation? Dirt 5 is the game for you! Dirt 5 is the kind of game where you can pick Pepsi or AMD as your sponsor. Also Monster Drink, of course. Choose them and then do their objectives to earn thousands of Dirt Dollars that you can spend on stickers or cars you don’t care about.
Dirt 5 is the kind of game where your car has two stats and they’re given letter grades, as if they were taking a spelling test. Most of the cars do very well on the spelling test, otherwise they wouldn’t be in Dirt 5. No one wants to drive a car that got a C on its spelling test. But it’s also the kind of game where some cars go up to S. They didn’t just ace the test; they ess’ed it! Which means it’s the kind of game where I don’t really care so much about getting new cars. Oh, look, I have 300,000 Dirt Dollars, I might as well buy a car. Which one is most expensive so it will be a while before I notice again that I have a lot of Dirt Dollars I don’t care about spending?
Dirt 5 is the kind of game where the annoying narrator keeps calling me “Ace”. As if I were a fighter pilot or a poker player or someone who got an A on his spelling test. It’s like calling someone “sport” or “pal” or “buddy”. I’m not sure if he’s making fun of me. His forced casual mien makes me doubt his sincerity. Dirt 5 is the kind of game where I later realize he’s called you “Ace” because it’s the default nickname in a long list of nicknames you can set on your player card. Dirt 5 is the kind of game where you have a player card.
Dirt 5 is the kind of game where you can press down on the right stick to look at your car without numbers and letters and stuff in the way. Then you can press A to look at your car with all the doors open and the hood up and the trunk open. Now your car is all bowed up, like it’s trying to impress someone or like it’s been abandoned on the side of the freeway. Better press A to close the doors again. Then press the right stick to go back to looking at what grades your car got in its spelling tests for its two stats. Dirt 5 is the kind of game that has photo mode because of course it has photo mode. All games with pretty graphics have photo modes. It also has an awesome replay mode. Frankly, Dirt 5 is kind of vain.
Dirt 5 can afford to be vain, because it’s the kind of game you play because you think the levels are pretty. And you’re not wrong. They’re very pretty. But it’s not the game you play if you want to play a racing game. It’s barely the kind of game you play if you want to play a driving game. It’s the kind of game you play if you just want to move through pretty levels, which is something lots of videogames do these days. So Dirt 5 at least has that going for it.